2012 Year in Review
It has been an amazing year for us at InkjetMall. We’ve worked harder than ever before and we’ve reached the end of a year with some pretty amazing accomplishments. I will recap them and then finish with what is in store for 2013!
We consolidated our ConeColor® PRO ink line after making improvements to dMax and glossiness without tripping up anyone or disrupting any color managed workflows. The inks are now easier to order and to understand and follow the nomenclature of the OEM inks. The reports back from our first generation users is that the dMax and glossiness are superb and now match the OEM. ConeColor PRO is unique in the World in being the only 3rd party encapsulated pigment particle and an ink formulation that can be used with the OEM’s color management system.
We’re known for our Piezography® black & white of course. And we are continuing to develop this product. With tens of thousands of users around the globe, Piezography still trumps the OEMs at highest standard black & white printmaking. And we should! We invented fine photographic black & white inkjet printing in the 1990s long before Epson or Canon or HP had even considered a single light black. The K7 system in comparison to EPSON ABW adds two additional lighter black shades and two additional darker shades. It’s really just simple math to understand why K7 is unique in offering tens of thousands of gray levels in comparison to the hundreds of gray levels of ABW.
If you divide an image into three shades or divide an image into seven shades you either end up with fewer or more gradation divisions. But, what really makes Piezography unique is the Piezography Profiler app that is used to create the K7 curves for Roy Harrington’s QuadTone RIP. The proprietary 16bit space seven ink curves force the Epson printer to utilize all of the space between printer dots. We far exceed anything that Epson is capable with using their own printer driver. These curves are provided free when you download QTR. We also provide a custom curve service.
The benefits of additional black inks is more shadow and highlight detail, smoother tonal gradations, higher printed resolution. The difference in using an all monochromatic ink set is evidenced in a more beautiful printed surface and light reflection with zero metamerism. For our glossy customers, we eliminate all traces of bronzing and gloss differential.
This year we perfected our digital negative system so that it is easier to install and use along side the traditional K7 printing system. The newly revamped curves also include a Carbon printing curve (thanks to Sandy King for bring to our attention the UV index of our inks). And we field tested the Carbon curve at Bostick & Sullivan with Dick Sullivan producing a wonderful Carbon print right in front of our eyes. I was teaching a workshop in Santa Fe and we thought we would pay him a visit with printer and inks and film in the back of our car! Real world testing.
This year marked our entry into the professional dye ink market with our new InkThrift® brand. We think that we may be inventing this market in the USA. The EPSON Pro printers no longer offer a dye ink option. When we first started selling inks into the EPSON market in 1999, we mostly converted dye printers into pigment printers. We sold a pigment ink prior to EPSON and we found that customers were interested in the longevity of pigment when printing fine art and photography. But, fast forward to 2012 and none of the EPSON Pro printers offer a dye ink option. So why would customers prefer dye ink over pigment?
The answer is simple. Many professional large format printers produce work for short term display. Take a trade show for example. Thousands of large format graphics are produced for trade show booths that are displayed for a few days and then discarded. Dye ink offers better chroma and more brilliant gloss than pigment at perhaps 10% of the cost of pigment. InkThrift offers our customers a chance to be either more competitive in their pricing or more profitable in their services. InkThrift PRO is available in either 9 or 11 inks depending upon your printer model. It’s highly water resistant when dry. And it has the ability to be displayed in doors for up to 30 years (although we do not recommend it for those seeking longevity.)
Our inks are now being distributed through out the world and we wanted to give some measure of guarantee of the contents of a ConeColor bottle. We designed a new bottle that is both more conducive to packaging because it’s rectangular and also more conducive to recycling. We have a recycle seal at the bottom of our bottles now so that they can be more readily recycled at centers requiring a recycle label. We also have our parent company’s logo (Vermont PhotoInkjet) emblazed in raised moulding along the side of the bottle to guarantee authenticity.
Although it looks like this bottle has an easy pour spout – that actually is a leak proof seal that forms a tight bond with the twist on cap. It easily pulls out for pouring or for using our long 3″ blunt tip needles. We looked at how others were packaging ink and we did not like what we saw. The paper seal when removed would allow the ink to slowly evaporate in partially used bottles. We have been using Nalgene lab bottles for our ink to prevent evaporation but Nalgene does not believe in putting recycle seals on their bottles. So we designed our own.
We continue to sell more and more of the JonCone Studio papers. Both of the grades (type 2 for fine art matte and type 5 baryta) are non-OBA papers. For photographers interested in archival properties, the most important factors in a paper are being acid-free, lignen-free, and optical brightener (OBA) free. Very few papers on the market today are OBA-free. It is critical because optical brighteners either yellow with age or the paper loses its brightness (or usually both). However, what is making our type 5 so popular is that it is the best baryta surface on the market today if you are trying to emulate the surface of traditional silver fiber paper. We did not try to make it more decorative or imitate silk and other surfaces. Type 5 rolls with a very slight surface that will be immediately familiar to users of Ilford fiber based papers.
PiezoFlush® has become one of our most popular products because it works! So this year, we added a 5 liter jug. Many universities and larger printing concerns are using these 5 liter jugs to clean or clean and store banks of printers. One set of 4800 carts (for example) can be used to clean and flush ten or more 4800 printers! We’ve saved a lot of folks expensive printer repairs as a result of PiezoFlush. What’s the secret? It’s not ink base! Most flushing fluids are simple ink bases minus the dye or pigment. PiezoFlush is purposely formulated based upon our own experience with cleaning Epson print heads. We wanted a solution that was strong (unlike clear ink base) and solvent yet safe for long-term storage.
So what’s in store for our customers in 2013?
InkThrift is going to offer some new options for desktop and office printers. We will be releasing two new InkThrift products. InkThrift CL is a more light resistant dye ink for users of EPSON Claria based printer models. This ink has only six positions but will offer better light resistance than our InkThrift PRO. We realized by the amount of requests we were getting that there is a whole new generation of photo enthusiasts who actually use dye ink to print their photographs and fine art. While InkThrift PRO is not designed for this market, InkThrift CL is. We will publish an i*metric stability test in a side-by-side with Claria when we release this ink.
We were bombarded all year by office printer users asking us for products. So, we began testing a hybrid pigment/dye formula in an EPSON 4020. First of all, we were floored at how efficient that printer is. It has replaced our color laser printers here in the offices at InkjetMall. We tuned the ink all Summer, bought some additional EPSON SOHO printers and we have tested it for more than six months. InkThrift DB is designed for EPSON Durabrite printer models. It is available in 4 ink colors. It is a very strong pigmented ink set. Why this market needs the longevity of pigment seems counter-intuitive. But, in the spirit of duplicating the qualities of DuraBrite ink, we’re releasing a very heavily pigmented dye ink.
EasyFill® cartridges for Epson desktop printers will be a new 2013 product. This is an innovative new cartridge design that uses what we call a chip frame. The chip frame is a plastic ink tank housing that uses an attached chip that will auto-reset after a normal amount of ink has been used. We say normal because it is designed to reset upon completion of a full ink tank. However, the second part of our innovation is the ink tank which is supplied separately and can be filled with ConeColor, InkThrift, Piezography or PiezoFlush. We envision our dekstop customers using ink tanks of their choice and snapping the tanks in and our of the frames. The chips can be reset on the frames by hand.
The tanks will come pre-filled but are easily refillable. This is a very green, very economical, and a very innovative solution we call EasyFill. We have for example emptied pre-maturely depleted Epson Claria desktop cartridges and filled the ink into empty EasyFill tanks. It is surprising to find out that it only takes 5 or 6 Claria cartridges which read “empty” to fill up an EasyFill tank. For Piezography, this may be one of the most easiest solutions for experimental ink blending! Lots of possibilities. But, even more important is that we can now give access to dozens and dozens of Epson small format printers that we previously did not.
Piezography2! After nearly a year and one half of full-time development we will be releasing (officially) Piezography2 for 8 ink position printers. What Piezography2 does is allow simultaneous matte and glossy printing on printer models with only 8 ink positions. Normally, matte and glossy printing requires 9 ink positions for both a matte and photo black, six additional shades of ink, and a gloss overprint. By eliminating shade 7 and putting in its place a photo black, a new generation of P2 curves will be available for QuadTone RIP. Current users can upgrade by replacing two cartridges of a K7 system and downloading the new curves.
We say “officially” released because Piezography2 has been in the field now for more than a year on a limited curves basis. We’ve been using it at Cone Editions Press all year in five different printers (representing five different ink sets). We notice very little in the way of highlight degradation. So six shades of ink is still superior to three shades of ink!
Finally, in 2013 we will be instituting our first on-site users forum. It is actually designed to give faster response for technical support. Right now we answer people individually. The new forum site will have all of our manuals in an easy to find place, as well as a a frequently asked questions section. Finally, any technical support requests will be forum related so that any registered user can look up answers to their own similar problems. It is rare that anyone actually ever has a problem that is unique. It does happen. What we have found is that everyone always has the same or similar issue that is quickly resolved. However, because we are answering the same issues over and over again – not everyone is getting resolved in less than one day. Users will be able to post their problems if unique or not covered by the archived responses and we will be moderating the forum on a regular basis.
Thanks everyone for a great 2012. We appreciate all your support for our products and we hope you will continue to let us know what you would like us to develop!
Jon Cone and the rest of us at InkjetMall!